Clannad After Story Collection 2 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Life after school is difficult but it has its moments of pure happiness – as well as utter despair.
What They Say
The course of love doesn't always run true. Nagisa may have accepted Tomoya's proposal, but her father, Akio, withholds his permission until Tomoya can meet his terms... and even if that can be achieved, darker clouds are gathering that will shatter their dreams forever, as Nagisa's health begins declining.
When what should be a happy moment turns instead into tragedy, Tomoya's rage and frustration at being unable to do more than be by Nagisa's side leaves him unable to handle the responsibility left to him. But the story is not yet over, and there is still another act to follow. Happiness can still be attained, provided that Tomoya holds onto love, the most precious thing of all.
Contains episodes 13-25.The Review!
Like the first series, Clannad unfortunately doesn’t merit an English language audio adaptation. What we get for this set is the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The audio for the show is quite good, though limited by what it is, as Clannad is very much a dialogue driven piece with ambient music and sound effects throughout. The music and such doesn’t really have a big impact but instead is very subtle and quiet for the most part which keeps it from being overbearing. The dialogue is where the bulk of this mix takes place and it’s generally a center channel oriented mix but with enough placement and directionality at times to make it noticeable. Usually only one or two characters are talking on screen at a time so it’s not a heavy requirement but when there are more it comes across well. This is a solid sound mix overall but not one that really pushes any limits for obvious reasons.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection features the first twelve episodes spread across two discs in a six/six format. The show has the usual high quality Kyoto Animation work that I’ve come to expect from them and the transfer captures it quite well. Like their other works, there’s a certain softness to a lot of scenes but so much of it just has a real beauty to it with the colors and the nods to realism. The put out a beautiful sense of atmosphere to their work and the transfer here does an excellent job of capturing that with solid bitrates and attention to the busier scenes. The original opening and closing sequences are retained with no replaced credits while the end of each episode has a separate chapter with the translated credits against a black screen. Sentai has done a very good job with this release as there’s little to really fault here other than a few gradients that are visible and some expected noise in a few backgrounds here and there.
Presented in a single sized keepcase with no hinge inside to hold the discs, Clannad again provides for an appealing cover but one that doesn't really set the show apart outside of the detail of the character design. The front cover features Nagisa and Ushio together in a field of flowers with what feels like a setting sun scene. With the soft yellows behind her and the flowers, it’s a very inviting piece and one that pushes the simplicity of the series. But it doesn’t stand out all that much either for anyone who may casually come across it. The logo is kept small as is the collection label which surprisingly includes the episode count on it. The back cover has a soft opaque view of a couple of the other girls underneath everything which gives it a soft feel as well. There’s a few good colorful shots from the show along the left while the right has a small print summary of the premise. The remainder is given over to a small round of production credits and a good clean technical grid that lays it all out clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for Clannad is quite nice as it uses the beautiful backgrounds to great effect where it has the sun shining through the trees with all kinds of colors on display. The natural setting is very appealing with the way Kyoto Animation designs things and when you combine it with the character artwork on the two volumes it’s even more so. Each disc has top level episode access which is a plus but beyond that it’s pretty barren as the first volume has just the special features while the second has the previews for other shows. No language options are available here either since it’s a monolingual disc and they default to just that with subtitles on, though they can be turned off on the fly.
The only extras included are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which can be found on the first volume.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Clannad draws to a close with this collection as it has the final thirteen episodes of the series. Or rather, it has the final ten episode of the series and three standalone tales that play with the world a bit. The show has been one that plays with emotions rather easily, especially if you let it, but it really has taken it up several notches with these episodes. Life after high school has been what I wanted to see from a series, a show that takes a look at the happily ever after and takes the characters through real changes and progress as they experience life. Few shows really play in this realm and that Clannad does so, and so masterfully, makes it the exceptional series that it is.
The second half of After Story does follow the progression of events well. Tomoya is working hard at his job, having come to grips with what his position will be because of his father and what he's done in the past. Life isn't bad but there's more he wants out of it and he's determined to go after it now in a way that he hasn't in the past. The first thing that has to be dealt with is getting Nagisa to finish out her senior year, something that's difficult for her as her illness has swung back around again and taken her down hard. Thankfully, she has worked hard over the years and even though this is her third year, she has finished enough days to count towards graduation. Tomoya's way of watching over her is priceless as he continues to be one of those rare good guys that does everything right, even as he thinks he's doing everything wrong. Nagisa's graduation is truly a tear inducing moment.
One of the best relationships of the series is the one between Tomoya and Akio. When Tomoya decides that he wants to spend forever with Nagisa, he has to do it right in asking for her hand in marriage from Akio and that sadly involves baseball. There's a real beauty to the determination that's done here and it really paints Tomoya in a great way that can be understood by others when the reality of it comes out. Nagisa's a little behind, but watching Sanae understand it and encourage it, while making sure that Nagisa doesn't interfere, is great. The two men have always been similar and butted heads at times, but there was also an understanding that you know Akio had when it came to Tomoya, including the way he let him move in with them for so long. While he wants to protect his daughter, he knows that Tomoya will become the man who will give her what she needs in addition to that protection.
The romance of these two people is at times one of the more awkward aspects of the series. It's easy to see the love that they do have for each other, but it's not always represented well. When the two are finally living together, it takes awhile before you feel that they're interacting in the way a young couple would. We barely ever see them kiss and the implication of sex happening at all seems almost a little surreal, though Nagisa has a great scene where she comes out about it with Akio. Their young happy life together is great to watch, though you watch it all knowing that tragedy is just around the corner because of her health. When the pregnancy hits, it's plainly obvious where the show will go and I was supremely glad and sad that they did follow through on it, making it the kind of tragedy that really does hit hard and deep.
This arc of the show is among the most tragic that I've seen in anime, and a lot of it is also because I've seen aspects of it in reality. With the loss of Nagisa, Tomoya does exactly what his father did to some extent and withdraws in self destruction. He's focused solely on his work and essentially abandons his daughter with Sanae and Akio, where she spends the next five years. The fact that he never spends any time alone with her is profound, but watching the two of them attempt at a relationship with Sanae's less than subtle prodding is incredibly endearing. But they can't help themselves with this story and they start putting young Ushio through the same problems that Nagisa had, putting Tomoya in the horrible position of experiencing everything he lost with Nagisa all over again.
Clannad deals well with these kinds of stories, much as other past Key/Visual Arts shows like Air and Kanon. You know going into a show of this nature that these kinds of things will be a part of it, even if it is just at the end. The supernatural aspect of Clannad here at the end doesn't sit as well with me though as they run with a miracle that while I know works and fits with what they want to tell, I think it does a disservice to the show. Allowing a reboot of sorts doesn't diminish what we saw happen, but not having the story continue on from there, to have Tomoya still try and live on with his life, misses something unique that could have been done. It would be difficult to end the show on a down note, so I do appreciate what they did and how they showed Tomoya making things right as it really is very uplifting and you can feel really warm inside watching it as it reconnects things.
The last three episodes of Clannad ~After Story~ are interesting overall, though they're ones that I think need to be watched some time after the main show is over and not right away. The first two are basically what-if episodes as we see Tomoya becoming involved with different women, including a very good story dealing with Kyou and Ryou trying to gain Tomoya's affection. The only one of these extra stories that doesn't work well is the last episode which is essentially a recap of the key points of the series and especially the episodes we just saw. It's a decent recap as they tie it together well, but it's certainly not essential viewing by any stretch of the imagination.
The final episodes of Clannad ~After Story~ are pieces of work that will stick with me for years to come. While I wish they would have gone a bit further with it in taking Tomoya through tragedy, I can appreciate what they did and why. There are few shows that really make this kind of emotional impact and even fewer shows that take the high school setting and moves beyond it, showing the characters growing and changing as they move out into the world. Clannad isn't a perfect work, but it's one of those few amazing character driven pieces that has lasting impact. It's definitely not for everyone, but for those that do get into it and let themselves fall into this world, it's one of the best experiences out there.
Japanese 2.0 LAnguage, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2